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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby. Liverpool: Reliving memories

Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool: Reliving memories
( Part 1: The Journey )


 Kuala Lumpur to Liverpool

A sunny, January morning of  1959, found me walking with mixed emotion towards a waiting BOAC plane at the Sungai Besi airport in Kuala Lumpur.  Halfway across the tarmac I paused to look and wave at the indistinct figures at the viewing gallery as my mum, uncle and auntie were among the many other parents, relatives and friends who were watching their loved ones boarding a plane that would transport us 8,000 miles to our new home at the Malayan Teachers' Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool.  

Boarding the plane

Once on board the plane, finding myself surrounded by strangers, a twinge of apprehension gripped me. As soon as the plane was air-borne two brothers, John and Lawrence came to introduce themselves while around me I could hear boisterous laughter and see young, smiling faces. In the company of 149 jovial and   high-spirited young Malayans my initial apprehension soon disappeared.    

The BOAC plane which ferried us to London
As there was no direct flight to London those days, we had to make a number of stopovers along the way.

Our flight route

 Our first stopover was at Bangkok airport where we were able  to stretch our weary legs while those with cameras took the opportunity to take snapshots of their new-found  friends.

A bevy of beauties

 The plane then made a night stopover in Calcutta and we all checked into a hotel.  At dusk we took a stroll along a street to take in the sights and sounds of the city. I noticed the street was filled with a seething mass of humanity.  Unattended cows, settled comfortably in the middle of the street while others wandered aimlessly among the bustling crowd. Street sleepers could be seen getting ready for the night. 

A seething mass of humanity. Photo credit: Calcutta 1959. by Che Guevera

The plane made further stopovers at Bahrain and Rome. When we landed in Rome, we could feel a sudden chill and there was a buzz of excitement when some of us spotted ice particles on the plane's glass windows.

We arrived at London airport in the middle of a bitterly cold English winter and boarded a  train for the long journey to Liverpool. After five decades, all I can remember about the journey is the hiss and chug of the engine and the occasional long, lonesome blast of the horn as the steam locomotive made its way through the cold and dreary winter night.

A British steam locomotive. Photo credit: Tony Woodward archive

Arrival at 'kampung Kirkby'

As the coach that transported us from the railway station rolled through the main gate and came to a halt at the campus ground, all I could see through the veil of low-hanging  fog was the murky shapes of  buildings that resemble an army barrack. ( later I learned during the War the place was used as accommodation for army and police personnel; medical students; hospital workers; and lorry drivers). 

'Kampung Kirkby' , Liverpool

Our seniors in the welcoming committee were on hand to welcome and assist us. Our luggage was efficiently and expediently delivered to our respective rooms and we soon found ourselves following doggedly  behind their confident footsteps as they guided us to our rooms. Each of us was allotted a room which was furnished with a single bed, a metal wardrobe, a writing table and a chair. A hot water pipe which ran along one side of the wall provided us the much needed heat through the cold winter night. The moment I was left alone in the room, I changed hurriedly into my long johns, put on extra warm clothing and tugged myself under the layers of woolen blankets.     

To be continued............